For Jessica Harvey, running her own summer camp is a good way to turn the page from the school year after being cooped up inside a classroom.
Harvey, a third-grade teacher at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School in Laurel, has operated Adventures in Camp since 2005 to provide children ages 3 to 12 with fun, hands-on exercises that encourage learning and adventure for a memorable camp experience. The Columbia-based camp is run by teachers like Harvey and offers math and reading enrichment, along with various sports, arts and crafts, weekly field trips, talent shows and swimming classes.
“The same families come back year after year, but the last three summers, I’ve had parents ask me, ‘Are you going to open up a teen camp? We need a teen camp,’” said Harvey, whose own 5-year-old son, Jackson, and 4-year-old daughter, Ava, attend the camp.
This year, Harvey has taken the advice from the parents of her campers and will, for the first time, offer a program, Adventures in Camp Extreme, geared toward teenagers. It will run for four weeks in July for ages 9 to 17, consisting of field trips to Ocean City, Rehoboth Beach, Del., Kings Dominion, Hershey Park and two college tours per week.
“I absolutely love this, and I see this as my calling,” said Harvey, who added enrollment is still open. “This camp is my baby, and it’s just a big part of who I am.”
Adventures in Camp is just one of many camps in Howard County that provides kids with both traditional day camp and specialty camp experiences.
At Camp Gan Israel Howard County, campers are exposed to a rich Jewish cultural experience through interactive
activities, games and events.
The camp has also grown in popularity in recent years. This summer will mark the first time in its three-decade-plus history that the camp will run for six weeks after extending from four weeks to five weeks last year.
Ga-ga is one tradition that has long been a signature staple of the camp for as long as longtime Camp Gan Israel Howard County director Chaya Baron can remember. Ga-ga, which has been played in Jewish summer camps since at least the 1970s, translates to “touch, touch” and is a variant to dodgeball, combining dodging, striking, running and jumping.
Baron, whose parents Rabbi Hillel and Chanie Baron started the Howard County chapter of Camp Gan Israel, said her family has always promoted a festive atmosphere that appeal to children of all ages.
“For people who want their children to be in a Jewish environment, this is a great opportunity through the songs and crafts and themes we put on,” Baron said. “Everything is presented in a fun, loving, exciting way. We really pride ourselves in giving kids the best possible summer they deserve.”
Bet Yeladim Preschool puts on two summer programs, one for children ages 3 to 5 and the other for the age of 2. The camp, which runs eight weeks from June through August, offers weekly specialty programs with different themes, including cooking, “zany brainy” science, amazing athletes, rhythms of the world and art discovery, among others.
Barbara Frederick, longtime associate director of Bet Yeladim, said Wonder Wednesdays have become a fixture in recent years. Each Wednesday, the older camp takes theme-related field trips to places such as Sky Zone Columbia Trampoline Park and J Camps at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, and both camps also hear from guest speakers.
Throughout the summer, Frederick said, there are roughly 170 children enrolled in Bet Yeladim’s summer programming.
“We’ve always felt that our camp program has been fun and exciting for the children who attend,” said Frederick, who added Bet Yeladim started its camp about 20 years ago. “I think with any type of programming you offer to children and families, you come to a point where you need to change and evolve, which I feel we have done very effectively.”